DRAGONFLY - RAYMARINE

MARTENS ON LAKE MICHIGAN

Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 06/28/2012
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos  by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac

Green Bay, WI – Aaron Martens’ Elite Series season got off to a rocky start.  In each of the first three tournaments of the year, the perennial Classic qualifier missed the top 50 cut, finishing in 84th place on the St. Johns River and recording back-to-back 58th place finishes on Lake Okeechobee and Bull Shoals. 

He started to climb in the Toyota Tundra Angler Of the Year standings at Douglas Lake, where he recorded a 3rd place finish, and kept the momentum rolling with a 25th place finish at Toledo Bend and a 5th place finish last week on the Mississippi River. 

At the conclusion of the first day of competition on a very crowded Lake Michigan, Martens has not only moved into 14th place in the TTAOY standings but is also leading the tournament after bringing a 20 pound limit of smallmouth to the scales in Green Bay, Wisconsin. 

Aaron MartensEven though 23 anglers managed a 15 pound limit on day one, it was by no means easy fishing.  As was predicted during practice, well over three-quarters of the field spent the day fishing in a small four to five mile stretch of Lake Michigan.  31 anglers were unable to crack the 10 pound mark, and Martens’ effort was the only 20 pound limit of the day.  

“I was hoping that I had more weight than that, but I had a couple three and three-quarter pounders in there. I had a couple of practice days where I had around 19 pounds, but going into today my goal was to catch 20 pounds,” Martens explained. 

Even though he topped the field, the Alabama pro wasn’t immune to the fishing pressure.  “It’s very, very, very crowded,” he lamented.  “I don’t know how the lake is going to fish the next few days.  Everyone is fishing a three to four mile section, and every single spot has boats on it.  There’s really not anything else to fish that’s productive.  That’s going to play a huge part in this tournament.”

In an unexpected twist, Martens divulged that the majority of his weight on Thursday came by targeting bedding bass.  “I had 18 pounds right off the bat,” he explained.  Martens said that the sight bite is most likely a one day deal, and not enough bedding smallmouth remained to play a big factor for the remaining three days.  “I really don’t think that there are many, if any, left,” he said. 

Over the course of the day, Martens said that he caught between 20 and 30 keepers and was able to cull up several times with smallmouth that he didn’t catch sight fishing.  “There’s a lot of stuff out there that nobody has hit yet,” he said.  “Even though it’s a small area, there’s a lot of water that’s unexplored,” At one point on Thursday, Martens said that he could see between 40 and 50 other competitors fishing.  

2nd Place: Dean Rojas (19-14)
Like Martens, Arizona’s Dean Rojas is another Elite Series pro who has overcome several subpar tournaments in the first half of the 2012 season to climb into the top 15 in the TTAOY standings.  After an 8th place finish last week on the Mississippi, Rojas is again in contention on Lake Michigan, finishing the day in 2nd place with a limit of smallmouth weighing 19-14. 

Dean RojasIn just one day of competition, Rojas has already eclipsed the total weight that he amassed over two days the last time the Elite Series visited one of the Great Lakes.  In 2008, he finished in 97th place on Lake Erie. 

“When I found out that the ‘mystery lake’ was one of the Great Lakes, it didn’t rank very high on my list of favorite places to fish from a confidence standpoint,” said Rojas with a chuckle.  “I spent my entire practice just making sure that I was spending my time in the right areas.  I went as far north as I possibly could, because that’s one of the only places where you can catch quality bass.”

Rojas battled the crowds throughout the day, and doesn’t expect it to be any different on Friday.  “I can tell you that the majority of the 15 boats that didn’t run up there today will be up there tomorrow,” he stated. 

Rojas explained that fishing in such close proximity to many of his fellow competitors actually created an interesting dynamic on the water.  “It is kind of cool to be around so many of the other guys who are also fishing in this little bathtub.  Everybody is watching everybody else so there are really no secrets.” 

After slamming a quality limit, Rojas isn’t sure what to expect for Friday.  “I’m sure that there will be another 20 pound limit brought in one of the three remaining days, but I think that today was the best chance for that to happen.”

Rojas said that he’ll most likely have to change his tactics for the remainder of the tournament.  “I was able to fish the area that I wanted to fish, and I caught exactly what I wanted to catch out of there.  It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next day or two,” he concluded.  

3rd Place: Todd Faircloth (18-3)
After hoisting his third Elite Series trophy just four days ago in La Crosse, Wisconsin and moving into 2nd place in the TTAOY standings, just 19 points behind leader Brent Chapman, Todd Faircloth didn’t shy away from the fact that the Angler Of the Year title was at the front of his mind. 

Todd FairclothOn the first day of competition on Lake Michigan, the Texas pro didn’t waste any time taking over the TTAOY lead.  With a limit weighing 18-3, Faircloth took a 12 point lead in the TTAOY race over Brent Chapman, who finished the day in 33rd place with a limit weighing 13-14. 

“Things really didn’t go according to planned,” explained a tired Faircloth after completing his 11th straight day on the water either practicing or competing.  “I found one spot during practice that I had a whole lot of confidence in, and I didn’t get a single bite there. I know that smallmouth are notorious for moving, and that school of fish moved. I was able to salvage the day and it ended up being a pretty strong effort.”

Faircloth explained that after winning the Mississippi River Rumble last week, he didn’t get on the water to practice until around 10:30 on Monday morning.  He put in a full day of practice on Tuesday, and practiced until 1:00 on Wednesday.  “All of my rods had braided line from La Crosse, so I had to spend a lot of time re-rigging and getting things switched over to fish for smallmouth,” he said. 

“I’m tired – I’m not going to lie about it,” he said.  “Once I’m out there, I’m fine.  I’ve got a lot riding on this event so I’m going to give it everything that I’ve got.”  Faircloth said that he culled through 12 to 15 keepers on Thursday, but plans on changing things up for Friday. 

“This body of water is dictated by the wind, and you couldn’t ask for a better day today.  It was as smooth as glass and traveling was really easy.  I’m not expecting that luxury tomorrow.  I anticipate that I’ll have to fish a little bit of a different way that I did today,” he concluded. 

4th Place: Brandon Palaniuk (18-0)
For the third time in the last four Elite Series tournaments, Brandon Palaniuk finished the first day of competition sitting in the top five.  At Bull Shoals, he led after the first day on his way to a wire-to wire victory, and at Toledo Bend, he opened the tournament in 3rd place before falling to 34th. 

Brandon PalaniukWith an 18 pound limit to open this week on Lake Michigan, the Idaho pro sits in 4th, just two pounds behind leader Aaron Martens. 

“It kind of caught me by surprise,” admitted Palaniuk.  “I had a really tough practice, but I was able to find one little spot and that’s what I went with today.  I was able to make some small adjustments that really paid off.”

Like Faircloth, Palaniuk said that the wind, or lack of, had a lot to do with the bite. “I think that the biggest thing is that when it’s windy the fish are doing one thing and when it’s calm they do something else.”

Culling through eight keepers over the course of the day, Palaniuk said that he’s planning on attacking Lake Michigan the same way on Friday.  “I’m not sure why I’m getting off to such a fast start lately,” he admitted.  “I’ve just made good adjustments on the fly and I’ve picked the right group of fish to start on.  When I weighed-in, I didn’t think that I’d stay in the top five.   Who knows what will happen because smallmouth are always a gamble.” 

5th Place: Matt Herren (17-14)
Despite finishing the first day in 5th place with a limit weighing 17-14, Alabama’s Matt Herren had a frustrating day on Lake Michigan. “It’s tough to fish when you can basically walk from boat to boat,” he said.  “I’m amazed that we caught what we caught, and it really speaks volumes for the quality of the fishery because I can’t believe that it held up with all the pressure.”

Matt HerrenStarting the day by targeting several quality smallmouth that he located on beds during practice, Herren put two good ones in the boat early before heading offshore to join the masses.  “The spawners are totally used up,” he explained.  He filled out his limit offshore, and plans on grinding it out for the remainder of the tournament. 

“We’ve put a beating on these fish, so the guys that I’m really intrigued with right now are the few who elected to stay in the river and caught them.  They should be sitting in the catbird seat,” said Herren.

 “The only other time that I’ve seen it this crowded was several years ago on Okeechobee when we were all fishing in the Monkey Box.  I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.  I don’t know how this thing is going to shake out – I’m just going to have to get in the middle of the crowd and fish.”

With the majority of the field fishing this portion of Lake Michigan for the first time, Herren said that it’s very difficult to make adjustments to avoid the crowd.  “Having never seen this place before, it’s not like you can move and adjust.  If this tournament is won out of the crowd, it’s going to come down to the guy who can adjust.  I promise you, these smallmouth are going to get funky on us.”   

 
DAY ONE STANDINGS
PlaceNameDay 1Total FishTotal Weight
FishWeight
1 Aaron Martens 5 20- 0 5 20- 0
2 Dean Rojas 5 19-14 5 19-14
3 Todd Faircloth 5 18- 3 5 18- 3
4 Brandon Palaniuk 5 18- 0 5 18- 0
5 Matthew Herren 5 17-14 5 17-14
6 David Walker 5 17-13 5 17-13
7 Jonathon VanDam 5 17-11 5 17-11
8 Tommy Biffle 5 17- 1 5 17- 1
9 Greg Hackney 5 17- 0 5 17- 0
10 Ishama Monroe 5 16-13 5 16-13
10 Terry Scroggins 5 16-13 5 16-13
10 Chris Zaldain 5 16-13 5 16-13
13 Ott DeFoe 5 16-11 5 16-11
14 James Niggemeyer 5 16- 9 5 16- 9
15 Mark Menendez 5 16- 9 5 16- 9
16 Bobby Lane 5 16- 8 5 16- 8
16 Jared Lintner 5 16- 8 5 16- 8
18 Travis Manson 5 16- 7 5 16- 7
19 John Crews 5 16- 6 5 16- 6
20 Skeet Reese 5 16- 0 5 16- 0
21 Scott Ashmore 5 15-14 5 15-14
22 Scott Rook 5 15-13 5 15-13
23 Chris Lane 5 15-12 5 15-12
23 Jason Quinn 5 15-12 5 15-12
25 Mark Davis 5 14-14 5 14-14
25 Bernie Schultz 5 14-14 5 14-14
27 Stephen Browning 5 14-10 5 14-10
28 Yusuke Miyazaki 5 14- 8 5 14- 8
29 Kevin Short 5 14- 4 5 14- 4
30 Stephen Kennedy 5 14- 2 5 14- 2
31 Bill Lowen 5 14- 1 5 14- 1
32 Pete Ponds 5 13-15 5 13-15
33 Brent Chapman 5 13-14 5 13-14
34 Shaw E Grigsby 5 13-13 5 13-13
35 Keith Poche 5 13-13 5 13-13
36 Rick Clunn 5 13-12 5 13-12
37 Matt Greenblatt 5 13- 8 5 13- 8
38 Jeremy Starks 5 13- 6 5 13- 6
39 Timmy Horton 5 13- 4 5 13- 4
40 David Smith 5 13- 2 5 13- 2
41 Kevin VanDam 5 13- 1 5 13- 1
42 Kelly Jordon 5 12-13 5 12-13
42 Andy Montgomery 5 12-13 5 12-13
44 Alton Jones 5 12-12 5 12-12
44 Russell Lane 5 12-12 5 12-12
44 Fletcher Shryock 5 12-12 5 12-12
47 Morizo Shimizu 3 12-12 3 12-12
48 Derek Remitz 5 12-11 5 12-11
49 Gary Klein 5 12-10 5 12-10
50 Casey Ashley 5 12- 4 5 12- 4
51 Kotaro Kiriyama 5 12- 2 5 12- 2
52 Chad Griffin 5 12- 1 5 12- 1
52 Nate Wellman 5 12- 1 5 12- 1
54 Takahiro Omori 5 12- 0 5 12- 0
55 Jamie Horton 5 12- 0 5 12- 0
56 Keith Combs 5 11- 9 5 11- 9
57 Rick Morris 5 11- 4 5 11- 4
58 Dustin Wilks 5 11- 3 5 11- 3
59 Edwin Evers 5 11- 2 5 11- 2
60 Gerald Swindle 5 11- 1 5 11- 1
61 Kevin Ledoux 4 11- 0 4 11- 0
62 Matt Reed 4 10-13 4 10-13
63 Jeff Kriet 5 10-12 5 10-12
64 Russell Parrish 4 10- 8 4 10- 8
65 Fred Roumbanis 5 10- 3 5 10- 3
66 Boyd Duckett 5 10- 2 5 10- 2
67 Greg Vinson 5 9- 9 5 9- 9
68 Randy Howell 5 9- 8 5 9- 8
69 Clark Reehm 5 9- 6 5 9- 6
70 Brian Snowden 4 9- 1 4 9- 1
71 Casey Scanlon 3 9- 0 3 9- 0
72 Jason Williamson 5 8- 5 5 8- 5
73 Mike McClelland 4 8- 5 4 8- 5
74 Grant Goldbeck 3 7-12 3 7-12
75 Denny Brauer 3 7- 8 3 7- 8
76 Brandon Card 3 7- 7 3 7- 7
77 Britt Myers 4 7- 2 4 7- 2
78 Kyle Fox 4 7- 1 4 7- 1
79 Michael Iaconelli 4 6- 9 4 6- 9
80 John Murray 3 6- 9 3 6- 9
81 Bradley Roy 3 6- 8 3 6- 8
82 Michael Simonton 2 6- 0 2 6- 0
83 Billy McCaghren 3 5-13 3 5-13
84 Terry Butcher 3 5-10 3 5-10
85 Jami Fralick 2 5- 3 2 5- 3
86 J Todd Tucker 2 5- 0 2 5- 0
87 Byron Velvick 2 4-10 2 4-10
88 Davy Hite 2 4- 3 2 4- 3
89 Kenyon Hill 2 3-11 2 3-11
89 Marty Robinson 2 3-11 2 3-11
91 Cliff Crochet 2 3- 6 2 3- 6
92 Charlie Hartley 2 3- 4 2 3- 4
93 Brent Broderick 1 2-13 1 2-13
94 Jared Miller 1 2- 2 1 2- 2
95 Paul Elias 1 2- 1 1 2- 1
96 Cliff Prince 1 2- 0 1 2- 0
97 Cliff Pace 0 0- 0
97 Zell Rowland 0 0- 0